■ When Bishop Jones of the Anglican Mission weighed in to sanitize this dysfunctional sanctuary on Renn Street, observers hailed him because they had anticipated hopeful rays at the end of the tunnel. Unfolding events question the credibility of this presiding bishop and his peace initiative and reveal a destructive shiftiness in sincerity and Faith.
When the Chairman of the Board of Trustee (BOT) of Igbo-dominated All Saints Anglican Church in Houston walked into a house event hosted by a church member a few weeks ago, it became obvious that the trouble besieging the parish for more than 20 months now is far from over. He was ushered in with an Igbo victory song proclaiming the removal of the embattled Parish Priest, Venerable Ogbunugwu. While some guests walked out in disappointment, others including the flamboyant chairman himself, toasted with alcohol, jubilated, and touted a proposed announcement of the parish priest’s removal.
Realistically, the problems that suffuse All Saints are like the Gaza Strip. Community members had hoped a timely intervention by Bishop Jones representing the Anglican Mission in the Americas (AMiA), under which this parish operates, would yield completely positive results – but it is indeed troubling that after the Right Reverend Jones lured, or compelled, All Saints Anglican to a pricey arbitration procedure headed by one Reverend Sims, the process which started with a retainer of $7,500 swelled to almost $26,000.00.
To make it worse, the reports, and recommendations generated in the process were dumped out of consideration. Besides, and more troubling is that the same Right Reverend Jones is now pushing for an internal mediation process that currently relegates his trust and dependence.
For 18 months or so, International Guardian has monitored events at All Saints. It revealed in separate dissertations how this spiritual dome was threatened by a battle between the Board of Trustees (BOT) and the Parochial Church Council (PCC) over control, accountability, and style of governance. Our editorial assessments also narrowed the issues to both internal governance, and fiscal management.
It is much expected that the governance issues may have been structured according the AMiA order under which All Saints operates, while church administrators are duly audited for financial uprightness. Most disappointingly, after months of intervention by Right Reverend Jones, none of these issues were purely addressed. Rather, the process was not only commercialized, but was battered by schismatic tenacity, obsequiousness, hurtful rumors, and seemingly lack of faith in their own God.
The Bishop, with his hired mediators, are being accused of tilting to the BOT chairman who writes the checks, and controls the church’s offertory, and we can now see why. The arbitration process was initially agreed to at a $7,500 retainer, but without a published report of stewardship, it sailed into a whopping $26,500.00. Issues changed when the Board Chairman issued this check to the mediator without the blessing of the entire church management. Undoubtedly, the issue changed from divine ceasefire to doing business as usual.
With this latest development, the parish is on the verge of splitting, and modalities are being secretly worked out by a faction with a strong legal backup. On the contrary, a three-man peace committee approved by Bishop has secretly worked out a retirement of Venerable Ogbunugwu with a monetary settlement. It was gathered that there was a renewed plans to fly in a Nigerian-based priest, Rev. Kelechi Okere, who eventually turned out to be the brother-in-law of Board Chairman Foster Duru. Venerable Ogbunugwu, in turn, had rejected any offer and, in fact, opted out of any more arbitration, it was learnt.
With this cluttered development, it would not be inaccurate to question Right Reverend Jones’ celestial feat in his spiritual capacity, and his credibility in conflict resolution. If Right Reverend Jones has faith in the Lord’s instructions on prayers, and has faith as his major weapon to address these pressing needs, why would a self-financed African church be cajoled to pay as much as $26,500.00 to another man of God for mediating an internal brotherly matter? There are credible pastors in the community, proficient in similar disciplines than can arbitrate for free. We are also positive that the African Bar Association, in its commitment to the Houston African community, could offer a more constructive assistance to this issue without asking for a pound of flesh.
Yet the ethical implications of this arbitration disorder remain to evoke more ambiguities and questions. For instance, if Right Reverend Jones believes in Our Lord’s instruction on prayers through Matthew 26:41 to "Keep alert and pray. Otherwise temptation will overpower you. For though the spirit is willing enough, the body is weak," why would money and influence supersede spiritual deliverance, devotional interference, and sacred wisdom?
One wonders why International Guardian as a newspaper has always championed the tough issues of the African community. The establishment of All Saints Anglican Church has a compelling story that resonates with Nigerian immigrants, their struggle for identity, and their survival in a society where immigration is often a taboo topic. All Saints Anglican is not just one of those churches on the next street, but a symbolic synagogue - not only to Houston Nigerians, but to the Igbos as a tribe. This is why the entire Nigerian immigrant population must stand up to the current mess with positive words and prayers.
To the Guardian, Civil Rights are not just a non-representational philosophy. They provide ethical and legitimate avenues for human existence, devoid of discrimination or persecution. International Guardian has defended these values in no small measure, working to ensure that RESIDENTS, especially the IMMIGRANT community, exercise their opportunity to fully participate in this society— to live as full-fledged citizens, without fear of discrimination
. Issues of the All Saints Anglican thus falls within the circumference of our editorial mission and values. In a thorough abridgment, at this time, we must implore with respect, the Right Reverend Jones and the Anglican Mission in the Americas (AMiA) to fix All Saints Anglican or let it go! From all indications, Right Reverend Jones and management of All Saints Anglican owe the congregation a complete audited statement of all its financial records. It must also effect endorsement of its controversial bylaws, with emphasis tailored to the canon laws of the Anglican Church of Rwanda under which AMiA exists.
AMAiA has always touted its commitment to evangelism through church planting, fulfilling Christ's Great Commandment and Great Commission; therefore, playing ping pong with the reality of faith contradicts these core values. Consequently, any endorsement of favoritism, obsequiousness, or a tilt to money, rather than issues of faith and spirituality will carry some self-inflicting repercussions.